Carding- Necessary Or Racist?

What is carding?

Carding is also often referred to as street checks. The process involves officers randomly stopping individuals who are not suspected of a crime, asking for their ID and adding the individuals’ names along with their personal information to a police databank.

Critics argue that this practice is an example of systemic racism. Critics go on to argue that the practice violates the privacy of innocent individuals and can result in future legal issues such as police using the information to target individuals and police checks.  Toronto’s Mayor, John Tory is against the process and promised to address the issue at the Ontario Association of Police Chiefs conference in Mississauga this Thursday.

Individual Case

George “Knia” Singh has taken issue with this practice and chosen to pursue legal action. He identifies himself as an African Canadian born in Toronto.  Singh through his lawyer has filed an application for judicial review of carding as he argues it violates his Charter rights.  Judicial review allows the courts to assess if a law is adhering or violating higher level laws/authority (i.e.  Charter rights) and alter the law if need be.

Singh has been stopped multiple times due to carding practices and would like the process to stop. He argues that the process is racist and he would like future generations to not have to worry about such matters.  Recent research has found that brown and black males are more likely to be carded than any other groups. Some argue that this has resulted in black youths distrusting police.


Chief Saunders has argued that the practice is necessary and effective. He openly supports the practice which has resulted in significant backlash among Torontonians.  He argues that it can enhance national safety when done right. It is also lawful when done right. He went on to argue that stops are “intelligence based”  and help explore criminal behaviour within the community.

What are some possible outcomes from Thursday’s meeting?

Some possible changes to the existing practice may include: limiting how long police can keep personal information; police may have to give a “receipt” to individuals when carding them that specify the information that was collected; police officers may be required to inform individuals that the interaction is voluntary and they can refuse to provide officers with information when being carded.  Another possible approach may be to outline particular situations in which carding can be carried out.  Currently, the Toronto police carding policy merely states officers require a “valid public safety purpose” to card individuals.
Taking it to the next level

NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh wants to take the matter even further; he wants this practice to stop all across the province.  He shares his story of being targeted as a turban wearing and full bearded Sikh man in Windsor as a student and again years later while riding his bike in Toronto. Unfortunately, this practice continues even after he was elected.  Mr. Singh wants minorities to know that they belong in Canada and are accepted.

Points of discussion:

1. What is your stance on carding? Do you think it is effective or racist?

2. Should the practice of carding be revoked?

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